Bridge Utilities Infrastructure News

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5 Common Causes of Bridge Utilities Failures

Posted by Edward Dill on Apr 21, 2017 10:38:00 AM

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Bridge-attached utilities are particularly vulnerable to wear-and-tear. It’s hard to understate how important it is that the pipelines, cables, and conduits of America’s utilities be well maintained. Why do bridge utilities fail? The reasons are often surprisingly simple.

Here are five common causes of bridge-attached utility failures, and how they can be prevented.

  1. Vibration
    Bridges, specifically those that support vehicle and pedestrian traffic, are built to withstand a certain level of vibration over time. These oscillations not only weaken the structural integrity of the bridge, over time they loosen bridge components such as attached utility lines, pipes, support wires, and monitoring equipment. When not properly maintained, attachment points for utilities can loosen, putting the entire system at risk of failure.

  2. Humidity
    Humidity can pose a major issue for a variety of different bridge components. Steel and concrete are particularly vulnerable to the corroding effects of humid air. Bridges installed near saltwater face even more extreme risks of corrosion. Galvanized coatings are often used to mitigate corrosion risk to bridge attached utilities, but proper galvanization takes regular upkeep to perform correctly.

  3. Age
    A vast majority of America’s most widely-used bridges were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Over time, the structural supports of these bridges (where utilities are often attached) have become degraded, loose, or structurally unsound. It’s imperative that bridge maintenance be performed holistically; utilities and bridges do not function as entirely separate entities and should not be treated as such.

  4. Weather
    Factors like temperature, wind, and ice can drastically impact the performance of bridge-attached utilities. Shrinking and expansion of piping, wind-disturbed joints, and the effects of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes have the potential to gradually weaken even the strongest components of bridges over time.

  5. Lack of Maintenance
    Unfortunately, many bridge utility failures are caused by a lack of general maintenance. Project managers are often unaware how vulnerable these services are to the elements and bridge-specific environment; many aren’t sure who to call for an inspection, or choose to have in in-house team perform a cursory examination, potentially missing emerging issues. Having bridge-connected utilities inspected by an experienced, well-equipped team of professionals is an effective way to prevent problems and save money.


Aptus is a leader in the installation, maintenance, and inspection of bridge-attached utilities. With regional offices throughout North America, we’ve worked on bridge utility projects in nearly every state. Is it time for your utilities to be thoroughly inspected? We can help. Go Aptus by giving our team a call today.

Topics: Bridge Utilities, Safety